Yi Wang's Reviews > King Lear

King Lear by William Shakespeare
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Sep 12, 12

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In a novel by William Styron, a father tells his son that life “is a search for justice.” There are always evil and virtue in the world. People often hope for justice from society, such as punishment for evils, and they eulogize virtues. However, this statement was not entirely true in the play King Lear by William Shakespeare. The play King Lear portrayed a cruel and unjust society in which the people were suffering. In this play, the main character, King Lear, constantly asked for help from God, but he was rarely answered. Shakespeare suggests the world is often injust because justice is often nonexistent; the evils were punished, but the virtues died along with the evils.
King Lear believes that justice only exists when people treat each other in a just way. When King Lear was in power he never realized justice in his kingdom. But after he gave his land to the other two daughters, who didn’t really love him, the daughters treated him terribly, and sent him outside to be homeless in the storm. “That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you from seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en too little care of this (3.4.4)!” After the betrayal of his two daughters, and after being sick and homeless in the storm, King Lear realizes he had not done anything for the homeless problem in his kingdom, when he had had the power to fix the problem. “Take physic, pomp; Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou mayst shake the superflux to them, And show the heavens more just (3.4.4).” King Lear suggests because humans live in an unjust world, this made heaven more just than the Earth; everyone in heaven treats each others in a just way. Justice exists when people behave in a just way towards each other. For example, if King Lear had fixed the homeless problem in his kingdom, he would not have been homeless.
Further, King Lear’s search for justice is successful to only a very small degree because justice does not really exist in this play. At first, he never thinks about searching for justice, because he thinks he has the authority of justice. But after experiencing all the hardships, King Lear starts to search for justice for his beloved daughter, Cordelia. King Lear changes his values from power and authority to cherishing Cordelia the most. However, Cordelia dies at the end of the story. This is strong evidence that justice often does not exist in this play; although the evil got punished, the virtue died along with the evil in the unjust world. God or justice did not protect virtue, and King Lear cannot do anything but hold Cordelia’s died body in his arms.
The significance of the search for justice in an injust world seems unsuccessful and it results in a cruel society. When the other two daughters betray King Lear by forcing him to leave, and he is sick and homeless during the storm, King Lear seen himself as the victim of injustice. He searches for justice and help from God, but God rarely answers him. When the old, sick King Lear finally meets his daughter Cordelia, she wants to help her father to get back his power, but again justice is not on their side. The French troops lose to the British troops, both Cordelia and King Lear are captured, and later both Cordelia and King Lear die. The cruelty and the picture of suffering in the play make the world seem terribly unjust.
Finally, King Lear’s search for justice was not fully successful. Even during his process of searching for justice, he found his true value, Cordelia. However, because of the crudeness in the play, the existence of justice in the world was being questioned. If justice really exists, why is justice so brutal? There is justice of punishment for the evils, such as Edmund. But there why isn’t there justice for the death of virtue, such as Cordelia and King Lear? There are both “good” and “bad” sides of the story, but it is difficult see which one triumphs in the end.

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